‘If You Hear Me, Squeeze My Hand’


Ziyad M. Hijazi, MD, MPH

By Ziyad M. Hijazi, MD, MPH

I’ve been taking care of Lauren all her life. She was born with a defective heart valve, and over the years she has had multiple surgeries to implant artificial valves as she’s grown. In August 2012, we implanted a new artificial valve without open heart surgery to replace one of the previously implanted valves that had stopped working properly.

But shortly after she had the procedure and returned home, her leg became extremely swollen due to blood clots. She was brought back to Rush and taken to the Cardiac Catheterization Lab, where a catheter was inserted into her leg to deliver tPA to dissolve the clots. I was not doing the procedure, but because she was my patient and I was concerned about her, I watched from the control room.

Suddenly, in the middle of the procedure, she became hypotensive and went into full-blown cardiac arrest. I rushed inside the cath lab and started doing chest compressions. Our team of doctors and nurses fought hard to revive her, and we were able to restore regular sinus rhythm after 30 minutes. But because she had been down so long, we were concerned that she’d have irreversible brain damage. I spoke to her parents and explained what had happened, and they were distraught. I told them I would try talking to Lauren and see if she responded. I went back into the cath lab, took her hand and said, “Lauren, if you hear me, squeeze my hand!” The moment she squeezed my hand, I was so relieved I almost started to cry. I knew then that she was going to be OK.

Because I often see and treat patients over a long period of time, I get to know them and their families very well. They become like family to me. If Lauren had died that day, I would have been devastated. It would have been like losing one of my own. In my book, it’s a miracle that she’s alive and that she didn’t suffer any permanent brain damage. She’s back in school and living her life like any other 12-year-old. This is why I chose to go into medicine: There’s no better feeling than saving a life.

Ziyad M. Hijazi, MD, MPH, is director of the Rush Center for Congenital and Structural Heart Disease. He is a leader in the development and use of percutaneous techniques and devices for the repair of congenital and structural heart defects.

8 thoughts on “‘If You Hear Me, Squeeze My Hand’

  1. What a beautiful story, Doctor — you had me in tears. I remember when Lauren was born; our family has never stopped praying for her and I couldn’t be more grateful for you being in her life. Thank you!

    • Awesome Dr. Hijazi! You’re an amazing Doctor. I am very grateful for all that you have done for me and my sister. See you soon!

  2. I remember that day like it was yesterday.Alexa who is my Daughter and Lauren’s half Sister called me crying hysterically telling me about Lauren’s state.It truly is a miracle and what a Blessing for such an incredible young Lady and Doctor.Thank you so much!

  3. You are truly marvelous Dr. Hijazi! This story was impressive because it shows your conviction and strengthens your passion to be a Doctor. I’m exceedingly happy for Lauren and her family. Thank you for helping us gain hope and faith in miracles.

  4. My son is 10 now and has had 2 open heart surgeries. Dr. Hijazi has been his doctor since he was diagnosed at 2 yrs old. Other complications have occurred with my son and Dr. Hijazi has ALWAYS been there for us. He is what all doctors should aspire to be. This story truly tells the man and doctor that he is. God has truly blessed this man and we are blessed to have him as a doctor for my son.

  5. Good job Doc after reading this story I was in tears… Keep up the good work and always give credit to who it is due and never, never forget get to show love for patient and job first….Anderson-Campbell

  6. I just pierced Lauren’s ears the other day. So glad I got to meet her and read her story. She’s such a strong person and deserves nothing but the best :)

  7. Dr. Hijazi is a wonderful and caring doctor who goes above the call of duty. My 11 year old daughter has Wolf-Parkinson White Syndrome. She was not a patient of Dr. Hijazi, but he was the doctor on call when she had an episode of tachycardia at one month old. It was a late Sunday night in January. We were instructed to go to the nearest ER. The doctors in the ER were not familiar with a case like this in an infant. Dr. Hijazi kept in touch with the hospital, instructing them what to do, but her heart rhythm was not converting. Because he is such a caring man, he chose to drive from his home to the hospital (which he was unfamiliar with because it was not near his house) to check on her and make sure things were going well with her. This made a lasting impression with me and my family.

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